Does fever in children need to be treated?
Despite what most people think, fever does NOT need to be treated.
In fact, there are many reasons to NOT treat fever, since:1,2
- Fever is the body’s natural defense to help fight infection
- Fever lets you know if the infection is getting better or worse
- The complications of fevers, including febrile seizures, are harmless
In certain circumstances, fever can be a sign of a more serious illness that needs to be treated. In these situations, it is more important to treat the underlying cause of the fever, rather than the fever itself. Get your child checked by a doctor if he or she experiences any of the signs listed under “When should I take my child to the doctor or the hospital?”
When should I consider treating my child’s fever?
Treating fever is only recommended if it is making the child feel distressed or uncomfortable.1,2
In very rare instances, fever can be a sign of a more serious illness that needs to be treated. Get your child checked by a doctor if your child’s fever is 40.5°C (104.9°F) or higher, your child is less than 6 months old, or your child experiences any of the signs listed under “When should I take my child to the doctor or the hospital?”
MYTH: Fevers must be treated to prevent febrile seizures.
There is also no evidence to show that bringing down a fever with medications prevents febrile seizures.8,11
MYTH: Fevers need to be controlled to stop the temperature from rising higher.
The brain still regulates the body’s temperature during fever. Just like turning up the thermostat at home, the body’s temperature will stop rising once it reaches the new temperature set point.15
How do I treat my child’s fever?
You can help bring down your child’s temperature and relieve fever symptoms by:1,2
- Removing extra bedding and clothing
- Keeping your child’s bedroom at a cooler temperature
- Having your child rest and avoid vigorous playing
- Hydrating your child with lots of fluids
You can also give a fever medication, which helps bring down the body temperature by resetting the brain’s thermostat set point to a lower temperature.
Before you start to treat your child’s fever, make sure it is safe to treat him or her at home without talking to your doctor first. Do not treat fever at home if he or she develops any of the signs listed under “When should I bring my child to the doctor or hospital?”
MYTH: Sponging is recommended to help bring down fever.
Although sponging can help lower body temperature, studies have shown that it actually makes children feel more uncomfortable and is therefore not recommended to bring down fever temperatures.1,3